The family of 19-year-old Kenneka Jenkins—who was found dead in a Chicago hotel’s walk-in freezer—will be receiving a settlement of $6 million.
Her mother, Tereasa Martin, will receive the majority of the funds, while the rest will be divided between two other relatives. While there’s been word that they settled, it wasn’t until the case was about to go to trial that the details came to light.
The settlement comes over six years after the teen was found deceased at the Crowne Plaza Chicago Hotel in Rosemont, Illinois.
She had gone to the hotel in September 2017 to attend a party on the ninth floor. However, she never made it home. After going missing for nearly 24 hours, her body was discovered in the hotel’s commercial kitchen space, inside the walk-in freezer.
Her cause of death was hypothermia.
The subsequent lawsuit against the hotel was filed by Jenkin’s mother in late 2018. She claimed it was due to the staff’s negligence that led to her daughter’s death.
She Had Lost Contact With Her Daughter
Martin began to get worried after losing contact with her daughter in the early hours of Sept. 9, 2017, when she supposedly arrived at the hotel for the party.
By approximately 2:30 a.m., she was reported missing by her friends.
According to Martin’s attorneys, Jenkins had wandered out of the hotel after leaving her cellphone in the room. Surveillance cameras confirm this as she was spotted walking downstairs, toward the freezer, in a disoriented state. She was allegedly seen by several staff members, who did not stop her.
Martin claims the security staff didn’t review the surveillance footage fast enough to locate her daughter, who ended up locking herself inside a walk-in freezer, one that was still under construction. The staff also failed to intervene in the party, despite having received several complaints from hotel guests.
In the lawsuit, Martin said she believes her daughter might still be with her if the hotel had done things differently.
According to Martin’s attorneys, one hotel staff member entered the walk-in freezer at approximately 10:30 p.m. on Saturday night but failed to see Jenkins inside. It wasn’t until two hours later that they discovered her body.
Jenkin’s death was ultimately ruled an accident by the medical examiner’s office, though it was noted that alcohol and topiramate, a drug that’s used to treat migraine headaches and epilepsy, played a role in her death.
The autopsy report also described the walk-in freezer door, which had a handle that allowed it to be opened from the inside. There was no explanation given for why the 19-year-old was unable to get out of the cold, however, Martin’s attorneys believe the door may have been locked from the outside.
The Teen’s Tragic Death Drew Widespread Attention
The police department ultimately agreed with the accidental death finding. Despite that, the case has lingered in people’s minds for years. At one point, there was even a petition, calling for the case to be reopened.
Over the years, Jenkin’s death has been discussed by numerous individuals including online journalist Zack Stoner.
Jenkin’s case also gave awareness to the fact that Black people, especially girls and women, go missing at a disproportionate rate each year.